Wednesday, August 31, 2011

No Working Allowed ... It's Labor Day

Let me warn you ... this post has nothing to do with writing, authoring, marketing, or self-publishing. Why? Because one of my favorite non-family, non-holiday holidays is coming up: Labor Day. Ahhh, the thoughts of relaxing in the backyard with a plate of barbecued chicken, baked beans, corn on the cob, and potato salad while celebrating the last "official" weekend of summer. It's the day we look forward to doing a whole lot of nothing; the day we commemorate the labor movement in America by taking a break from the one thing we all complain about – WORK!

This Labor Day you might hear a different song from your friends, neighbors, and relatives. Those who have been out of work for some time due to the down economy will likely complain about not having a job, while those with a job will complain about "d>w/<" (doing more work with less), and then there are those who couldn't care less one way or the other.

Honestly, though, I'm looking forward to taking a labor break. My plan is to do no work on Labor Day – no writing, no proofing, no planning, no nothing. Now, if you know me, you realize this is a challenge, but I'm up to it. After all, I'm dog tired at this writing, and I just need a good old fashioned break. So I'm going to take one on Labor Day. That's right. On Monday, September 5th I'm going to do no work! I swear. Okay, that's my plan, anyway. You'll have to check back here on Sept. 7th to find out what really happened.

BTW, what are your plans for Labor Day?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

20 Exercises to Build Your Writing Power

Most people understand that physical exercise is good for you; it releases endorphins. These are feel-good hormones. Writing exercises can release your creative juices, flex your mental muscles, and build your writing power. As they say, “Practice makes perfect.” To that, I’ll add that consistency makes you a much more powerful and confident writer.

Practicing writing will expand your vocabulary, generate new ideas, give new perspectives, and sharpen your grammar and sentence structure skills. Try writing in various ways. Use a timer and just write without trying to be perfect. Write from the perspective of a different time period, or use the voice of an animal. You’ll be surprised that once you start writing from these fresh angles, you may not be able to stop!

When you find yourself staring at a blank page awaiting inspiration, use one of these ideas to spark your imagination. These are not useless exercises, but are designed to prepare you for your piece de resistance. Try these exercises knowing that they will not be published. However, what you learn from them will be valuable when you write your next manuscript.
  1. Imagine a friend walks into the room. Write a short description of what you see, hear, and think.
  2. Watch a TV show with the sound turned down. Make up your own dialogue.
  3. Describe a room in your house. What do you see? What do you like? What do you dislike? What would be your ideal room?
  4. Look out the window and describe what you see. Use different viewpoints: from your car, a train, your living room or kitchen.
  5. Pretend you are a reporter for a glossy magazine and “interview” a famous character. Make it as spicy as you like
  6. Choose a newspaper article and write what happens afterwards.
  7. Change an existing piece of work from first to third person, or vice versa.
  8. Describe your earliest childhood memory: your home, a vacation.
  9. Consider your career. What one theme has been a thread throughout your career? Describe it and how it has helped you succeed.
  10. Describe the most important thing in your life.
  11. Remember a dream you had and write the details.
  12. Think of your top 5 wishes and write about them: why are they important, what do you expect to gain, who else in involved, how will they be fulfilled?
  13. Pretend you’re having a difficult conversation with another person. Write your true feelings.
  14. Write for 15 minutes and develop a story on what happens after the elevator door opens.
  15. Open the dictionary and point to a word. Write an essay about that word.
  16. Watch a movie or TV program, and notice the people in the background. Write a story from their perspective.
  17. Close your eyes and imagine a landscape. What do you see, smell, hear?
  18. You’ve found a key. What does it unlock?
  19. Imagine an airport at midnight. Write about what is happening. Then imagine it at midday. Notice the differences.
  20. You are giving a speech to an eager audience about a topic on which you are an expert. Write out what you will share with this audience. What did they come to hear? What one concept do you want to leave them with?
The list for ways to hone your writing skills is endless. You’ll notice that the more you write, the more creativity will be unleashed. What other writing prompts or exercises can you think of to help yourself and other authors hone the craft of writing?

Please post your comments.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

5 Ways to Use Your Book to Build Your Credibility

How do others measure your credibility? Do they review your qualifications, your years of experience, your accomplishments, your confidence, or what your clients and colleagues say about you? The likely answer is, “All of these.” What if you could produce all of these elements of credibility in one item; not a resume, a keynote speech, or a list of testimonials ... but your book?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines credibility as the quality or power of inspiring belief. Besides your good intentions, what do you possess that inspires belief in your capabilities? Your book is an undeniable example of your credibility. You are an expert, an authority, a go-to person for whatever you do and know. This doesn’t mean you are the only person who does what you do, or that you know everything there is to know about your subject matter. However, being an expert or an authority suggests a level of credibility that customers need in order to have confidence in you before they will commit to doing business with you and telling others about you. So what do you want to be known for? On what platform do you wish to build your credibility?

When you’re able to confidently answer these questions, it's time to leverage your book to prove your credibility and to inspire belief. Think of your book as a product; a valuable resource to help others accomplish their goals. Ideally, you’ve written a book that teaches a lesson, whether through your life experiences—as in a memoir or an autobiography—or one that provides advice, tips, or information about doing, being, or having something—as in a how-to or self-help book. Or, perhaps you wrote your novel or children’s book to establish yourself as a rising star among contemporary writers. Either way, your book is a product that represents what you want to be known for. Use it as such.
1.       Package your book with other products of yours or of others.
2.       Repurpose the content in presentations, speeches, courses, or information products.
3.       Gather the knowledge you’ve gained from writing the book, and share that on blogs, in seminars or workshops, and in your signature ezine.
4.       Assemble the information into a unique process or system to help others.
5.       Develop a unique product, service, or event connected to your book, your knowledge, or your experience.

Your book is the foundation for your credibility – and from there you can only keep building upward.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Memoir vs. Autobiography: What’s the Difference?

According to the WordNet dictionary, a memoir is “an account of the author's personal experiences,” and an autobiography is “a biography of yourself.” Not very clear, is it?

The line is blurry between these two genres, but there is a difference. In my book, Write Your Life: Create Your Ideal Life and the Book You’ve Been Wanting to Write, I distinguish these two approaches to telling your life story in this way:

In your memoir, you explore a particular event, time, person, or place that had a significant impact on your life. Perhaps the two years when your grandfather lived with your family were the most precious times of your childhood. Or, your memoir could reflect on your time spent in the military and how that changed you. Maybe memories of the summers spent at your family’s farm in Iowa remind you of life lessons you wish to share. Or, the knowledge you gained while in the Peace Corps impacted you to such an extent that you want to share those experiences. These are just a few suggestions of life events that could be central to your memoir.

Exploring the totality of your life and zeroing in on a consistent theme is what an autobiography is about. Here, you take readers on a journey through your life, most often chronologically, to examine your personal growth, a realization, or a life lesson. You will examine your entire life and identify a specific theme. Maybe your autobiography will center on your fear of abandonment and how you overcame it. Perhaps you will want to explore how money and finances have been crucial in your life and how these concepts have impacted you, for better or for worse. Or, maybe you recognize the theme of success in your life and how you have experienced success with practically everything you have tried in life.

We often hear of celebrities writing autobiographies. These “tell-all” stories are fascinating to “regular” people. The public is naturally intrigued with the lives of those in the spotlight and enjoy reading about their childhoods, struggles, climb to success, and failures along the way. But autobiographies aren’t reserved for the rich and famous. Although yours might not be a household name, your life likely contains some drama, ups, downs, challenges, and lessons that others would enjoy reading about. 

The same is true for your memoir. At some point in life, most people wish to share what they know and what they’ve learned about life. Whether your memoir takes readers through your journey as a successful venture capitalist or your life raising dozens of adopted children, readers will gain a wealth of inspiration when you package your experiences as lessons that people can relate to and learn from. 

People love to read human interest stories that reveal the joys, failures, adventures, and emotional experiences of others. Why not turn your life into a story that could change someone else’s life. Either tell it all in an autobiography or tell key parts of your life in a memoir. In either case, include the emotion and the lesson ... and you could have a best-seller on your hands.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Publishing Process

What happens after your manuscript is finished? You’ve probably been so wrapped up in writing that you haven’t given much thought to the process of how to get your book published. When you decide to go the self-publishing route, you’ll find that you, the author, are responsible for pretty much everything. You (or your company) are the publisher and can make the final decisions for the title, book cover design, layout, and more. This means that you are also responsible for the expenses incurred during publishing. 

If you’ve never experienced the self-publishing process, relax; it’s not as mysterious or difficult as you might think. So what are the steps to self-publishing? There are several, and I’ll try to keep it simple. This in no way includes all of the details, but it does give you a general overview of the process. Here it is in a nutshell:
  1. Author writes content for the manuscript (your book is called a manuscript until it is published and printed).
  2. Editor reviews completed manuscript and suggests edits to the content, grammar, spelling, punctuation, and overall flow of the story.
  3. Author interviews self-publishing companies to determine the best match for her/his book project. Oftentimes, it’s about relationship. Sometimes it boils down to cost, services provided, and quality of service.
  4. Author purchases an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for the book. Or, you could have the self-publishing company do it.
  5. Author submits final edited manuscript to publishing company.
  6. Author and/or publicist creates online presence (website, social media) to begin early promotion of book.
  7. Layout specialist formats book pages, and graphic designer creates book cover or dust jacket.
  8. Publishing company lays out book and provides proof.
  9. Author and proofreader review proof.
  10. Publicist receives bound galley and advance copies and sends to book reviewers, journalists and booksellers along with publicity materials.
  11. Publisher prepares book as e-book and submits to online booksellers.
  12. Publisher prints books, provides to author, and ships to booksellers as directed by author. 
  13. Publicist schedules media interviews and speaking engagements for author.
  14. Author conducts book tour to include book signings, speaking engagements, media interviews, and appearances.  
  15. Author enjoys success of enhanced professional platform, establishment of expertise, increased business, expanded circle of influence, and astronomical book sales.
Okay, this sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it. Wouldn’t it be great if you could take the above “recipe” and just add water and stir? Well, it doesn’t quite work that way, which is why it is so important to assemble a professional, experienced publishing team. If you need help with that, contact me; I’d be happy to help. Just email me at 

If you’re feeling a bit deterred about self-publishing, Wikipedia offers this hope:

Many works now considered classic were originally self-published, including the original writings of William Blake, Virginia Woolf, Walt Whitman, William Morris, and James Joyce.
Other well-known self-publishers include: Stephen Crane, E. E. Cummings, Deepak Chopra, Benjamin Franklin, Zane Grey, Pat Ingoldsby, Rudyard Kipling, D. H. Lawrence, Thomas Paine, Edgar Allan Poe, Ezra Pound, Carl Sandburg, George Bernard Shaw, Upton Sinclair, Gertrude Stein, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman and Mark Twain.